Niobrara Trip

August has been one huge, fun-filled month for me, with some big event happening nearly every weekend. On August 17, I had a three-day weekend and went camping for the very first time with Vivian and a bunch of our friends from Terra Nova.

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Our first task was to figure out how to get up to the campsite. We drove up to the Rocky Ford campgrounds near Valentine, Nebraska, and some of thought taking I-80 would be a bit of a long way to get there. It was a five or six hour trip total, and we got to pass the time by doing some karaoke with the small CB radios we carried to talk to each other on the drive.

We arrived at the campsite, we had to keep moving to get our tents all set up before the sun went down. The girls had to argue first, of course, about whether their door should face the campfire or the river.

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After setting up our tents, Corey and Ted waded across the river to bring back some logs for firewood. We started cooking our dinner, using both dry wood and charcoal to cook some hamburgers and roast a few marshmallows afterwards.

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When the sun went down, Corey and Jon decided to have a prolonged wrestling match in the dark, with shirts slipping off midway making for all kinds of wrong.

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The next morning we got up early and walked down to the canoes to get a bus ride up the river for a trip down the Niobrara. I hadn’t paddled a canoe since I was around eight or nine and took a trip with my dad and cousins years ago.

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The weather was just perfect that morning, cool and not too cloudy either. The previous day had been overcast the entire time, so it was wonderful to see blue skies and sunshine all day long.

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We stopped at a small park along the river to have lunch near Smith Falls, and then we took a quick walk up the path to see the tallest waterfall in Nebraska. The water was still pretty cold, but that didn’t keep most of us from getting a quick shower underneath the icy torrents for as many seconds as we could stand. I should have brought my shampoo and body wash, since the water wasn’t much colder than the showers we had back at the campsite.

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Further down the river, we stopped at “Jumping Off Point,” a small part of the river where the floor goes from an inch or two deep to around seven or eight feet, making it the perfect spot to wade out and them jump off into the strong current and pulled down the river. We also had an impromptu mud fight and a rinse off in the small waterfall around the bend. Sitting in the rushing waters was like having your own personal hot tub, only much cooler.


The next day, we packed up our campsite and headed out for home. First, though, we stopped by Snake Falls, the widest waterfall in Nebraska. We had to climb carefully down a steep and winding pathway to get to the river, and we also had to watch for rattlesnakes as a nearby signed warned us. There was a narrow path behind the waterfall where we could walk, and plenty of conveniently-placed stepping stones to get from one side to the other.

All-in-all, it was a great weekend. I’d never been camping before, and I think this was the best introduction to “roughing it” that I could find. I drove Vivian a little nuts by bringing my iPod Nano and other little bits of civilization along with me, but how else could we enjoy karaoke together in the car on the drive up?

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